Abkhazian border to be guarded by Russian troops
Starting from today, September the 15th, the borders of the Republic of Abkhazia are being protected by the Russian border guards. Russia says it will detain Georgian ships violating Abkhazia’s maritime border. A spokesman for the Russian coastal guard at the Federal Security Service added that in April the two countries signed a deal “On joint measures to protect Abkhazian state borders”.
Russia now controls more than 350 kilometers of Abkhazian borders, 215 of which are in its maritime zone. A statement released today says a detachment of patrol motor boats, including the latest Sobol and Mangoust models, is being formed in the seaside city of Ochamchire. The whole area will have 100% surveillance radar system coverage.
The question is what exactly Russia will be protecting in Abkhazia. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, each state determines the width of its territorial waters up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles. Since the international community does not recognize Abkhazian independence, it regards the zone as belonging to Georgia. But Tbilisi has already violated the UN Convention by having closed some of its coastal areas, says Anatoly Kolodkin, President of the Association of International Marine Law:
“In 1996-97 Georgia closed some of its coastal zones. Ten years have passed since then and yet Georgia has not informed the UN on how long these zones will be closed (like Mexico and Guatemala did). But these zones cannot be closed for an undefined period of time. Another important thing here: we have recognized an independent state, and we believe we can help them with coast guard assistance. At the same time, being a member of international community Abkhazia must respect the right of any kind of vessels to arrive at their ports”.
This row over maritime borders began when Georgia detained ships in the Abkhazian waters citing the law “On occupational zones” which was adopted in Tbilisi not to let Georgia’s breakaway republics have any contacts with other countries. More than 20 vessels carrying cargoes for Abkhazia have been detained since the beginning of the year. Sukhum decided to take responsive actions after Georgia had seized the Turkish-flagged Buket ship. Its captain was sentenced to 24 years in prison in Tbilisi but then the verdict was replaced for a suspended sentence and penalty. Sukhum accused Tbilisi of piracy, and the Abkhazian leader Sergei Bagapsh then even threatened to sink Georgian ships.
Russia has promptly taken responsive measures but rejected it had an intention to destroy Georgian vessels. Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly reminded to the international community that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are sovereign states and that Russia will do everything to protect them.